report-card

Maj. Gen. (R) Hussain Mehdi is the former Director General of the Rangers in Punjab and has closely observed the situation in Punjab.

We asked him to evaluate the capability of the Punjab Police and assess the capacity of the police on several fronts, including combating terrorism and tackling issues like hate speech. His honest appraisal is cause for concern

Narratives’ Grading Policy!

A– Excellent   B– Average   F– Miserable/Fail

Coordinated civil-military operations
“The Rangers are paramilitary forces deployed on the borders during peace time. Their basic objective is to monitor the border of the country against any aggression, smuggling or other illegal activity. During war, the Rangers fall under the command of the respective army corps. However, when the federal or provincial governments request the Pakistan Army or the Rangers to come to the aid of the civilian government in establishing law and order or an anti-terrorist operation, the Rangers, being a federal force, take the police ‘under command.’ Similarly, if the Army is called out by the civil government, the Rangers and police will come under the Army’s command. Under such a scenario, they will have more cohesion and better coordination. It is foolish and idiotic thinking to believe that the Rangers’ operation in Punjab will be successful without bringing the Punjab Police ‘under command.”
Intelligence sharing
“ The ongoing Rangers’ operation in Punjab is an eyewash. The intelligence wings of the Pakistan Army including Military Intelligence (MI), Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and even the Intelligence Bureau (IB) have faith in the Rangers because they are headed by senior Army officers posted on deputation. But they do not have any faith in the police. The Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) working under the police does not have the capacity to undertake serious operations. Ask any CTD official how many rounds he has fired so far? The police are corrupt and inefficient and are not able to even administer their police stations properly. They are under the control of their political bosses, facing allegations of having a nexus with defunct outfits. Under such a scenario, the intelligence wings of the Army are not supposed to share vital information with the police. They prefer to work independently instead of relying on the police.”
Political Interference
“ The Punjab government has been resisting the Rangers’ operation for the past several years. It is quite obvious to everyone what the hidden motive is. They want the police to launch the operation against terrorists while the Rangers assist them. It raises many questions. The Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah, is openly launching political campaigns along with activists of defunct groups. It is an open secret that most of the religious seminaries in South Punjab are being run with foreign funding under the very nose of the Punjab government and are involved in terrorism as well. Now Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, in league with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, has announced the launch of the Rangers’ operation without giving them the lead role. If I was the current Punjab Rangers Director General, I would have refused to take part in any operation which was not led by me.”
Rooting out banned organisations
“ The Rangers’ operation in Punjab was undertaken with the mutual consent of the provincial and federal governments. The police have the lead role in this operation, but they are not able to combat even routine crime, forget tackling terrorism. The political brass of the province has sympathies with some of the activists of the defunct outfits as they consider them their vote bank. The Punjab Police is only for the protection of the Sharif family. They are ignorant of the parameters of the professional requirements for undertaking such massive operations. Giving them a lead role in any such operation is bound to fail. The Punjab government does not seem serious in rooting out terrorism from the province.”
Operations in urban environments
“ Sincerity is the key to the success of any operation. Punjab has nurseries and sanctuaries of defunct groups both in urban and rural centres. The defunct groups consider Punjab as their safe haven due to their close proximity to the rulers and the inability and incompetence of the police to counter them. The performance of the police is obvious as they have done nothing, otherwise there was no need to call the Rangers to assist them. The Rangers are a hard-hitting, professionally competent force which can only deliver if given a lead role with no strings attached. The Rangers’ operation in Karachi was successful because it was led by the Rangers only.”
Uprooting hate speech
“ The National Action Plan has recommended strict action against the promotion of hatred and extremism. But the federal and provincial governments have not fully implemented NAP. The Punjab government has taken cosmetic measures like geo-tagging religious seminaries. But several seminaries are still involved in promoting hatred. Hate material is the root cause in promoting sectarianism and terrorism. The government is enacting laws but there is a need to launch a crackdown against religious seminaries or defunct groups involved in promoting hate, and this cannot be achieved without giving a free hand to the paramilitary troops.”
Rights of citizens
“Pakistan is confronting an extraordinary situation. Terrorists are attacking targets indiscriminately. Under such circumstances, you cannot deal with hardened criminals as per the law. Even the US, after 9/11, arrested thousands of people merely on the basis of suspicion and detained them in Guantanamo Bay. Only five percent of the total people detained in Guantanamo Bay were terrorists, the remaining were suspects and were detained there for years. The job of the paramilitary force is to carry out intelligence-based operations and arrest hardened criminals or terrorists and, after proper investigation, hand them over to the police for further procedure. The establishment of military courts is a clear example of the prevailing extraordinary situation in the country.”
Police-crime nexus
“ The police are corrupt and inefficient. In most of the cases, the local police have been found protecting and patronising criminals. I know of several instances where the Army shared some vital information with the police and they leaked it to the criminal concerned. Intelligence agencies do not trust the police because of their connections with criminals. Most criminals take advantage of weak investigation, non-availability of evidence and inappropriate prosecution and subsequently go unpunished. The Rangers are a superior, disciplined, professional and trained force. Rangers should be clear about their mandate and unity of command demands that the superior commander should take over command for smooth and coordinated efforts. The DG Rangers should be given a free hand to arrest anyone, on the basis of strong evidence, without consulting the provincial government. Otherwise, the final result of this operation will be zero.”
Fighting Daesh
“Punjab is considered a safe haven for terrorists. Most of the religious seminaries in South Punjab are being run with foreign funding. Who can deny the presence of Jaish-e-Mohammed in South Punjab? It does not matter that the federal government is denying it. Daesh and IS have already established their nurseries in Punjab. This is a typical mindset which is working in Punjab with a free hand and they are a major threat to the peace of Pakistan. The government does not seem serious and sincere in rooting out this menace. It’s now up to the Army Chief and the Director General Punjab Rangers to take a firm stand on this serious issue. The government can only achieve results by giving a lead role to the Rangers to launch an indiscriminate operation against terrorists and breaking up their networks.”
Conduct of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad
“Punjab is considered a safe haven for terrorists. Most of the religious seminaries in South Punjab are being run with foreign funding. Who can deny the presence of Jaish-e-Mohammed in South Punjab? It does not matter that the federal government is denying it. Daesh and IS have already established their nurseries in Punjab. This is a typical mindset which is working in Punjab with a free hand and they are a major threat to the peace of Pakistan. The government does not seem serious and sincere in rooting out this menace. It’s now up to the Army Chief and the Director General Punjab Rangers to take a firm stand on this serious issue. The government can only achieve results by giving a lead role to the Rangers to launch an indiscriminate operation against terrorists and breaking up their networks.”
Prosecuting extremists and terrorists
“ The political brass in Punjab has sympathies with criminals for wooing their vote bank. They do not want to annoy them. Their ministers are openly moving with members of banned outfits. How can there be a fair and independent prosecution of a criminal who is in the good books of the government? How many hardened criminals have been prosecuted so far in Punjab? The police are not trained to investigate hardened criminals nor do they have forensic skills and equipment. In most of the cases the police are found patronising criminals. Malik Ishaq is a clear example of the weak and flawed prosecution system. Rangers do not have authority in Punjab, as they do in Karachi, to arrest and investigate the criminals.”
Cutting terror financing
“Religious seminaries in South Punjab are being sponsored and funded from outside Pakistan. There are defunct groups which are being sponsored by friendly states. How else do you think Daesh and IS are finding bases in Pakistan without any financial support? But the government is, unfortunately, under the influence of such states and is unable to cut their financial supply lines. The Punjab Rangers, if given a free hand, would launch a crackdown against such seminaries and clerics, ignoring any foreign pressure. Only such measures could help in cutting the financial support. The government clearly knows that religious seminaries and defunct groups are getting finances from abroad but is hesitant in taking any action.”